Paedophile priest George Pell remained third in command of the Catholic Church for almost two years after he was charged with sexually assaulting choirboys.
Charges were brought against Pell in June 2017 and he was immediately given leave from his duties as treasurer in the Vatican.
But he was never sacked and his role only officially ended three days ago when his five-year contract expired.
Pope Francis (right, with Pell) banned him from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over
The Vatican’s spokesman confirmed in a tweet last night that Pell was no longer working with the Pope
The Vatican’s spokesman confirmed in a tweet last night that Pell was no longer working with the Pope.
‘I can confirm that Cardinal George Pell is no longer the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy,’ wrote Alessandro Gisotti.
Pell had been told some time ago that his contract would not be renewed.
It comes as Pell will take one last shot at freedom by requesting to stay on bail as he appeals his conviction for molesting two choirboys.
Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic will face County Court at 10am on Wednesday for a pre-sentence hearing before he is likely sent to jail next month.
He was convicted of one count of sexually penetrating a child and four counts of committing an act of indecency in December in a verdict made public on Tuesday.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail.
Cardinal George Pell will take one last shot at freedom by begging to stay on bail while he appeals his conviction for molesting two choirboys
Victorian County Court chief judge Peter Kidd said Pell, 77, would be remanded in custody after the hearing until his sentence.
However, Pell’s lawyers filed a bail application at the court of appeal for 2.30pm on Wednesday, hoping to keep him out of jail until his appeal is heard.
It was not clear whether Pell would be forced to spend the few hours in between in a holding cell.
The Court of Appeal can grant bail at its discretion while it reviews an application to quash a conviction, which can take months.
Should the court end up overturning Pell’s conviction, prosecutors would have to decide whether to re-try the case in the County Court.
Investigations related to Pell during the Royal Commission into sex abuse in institutions would remain sealed until his appeals were exhausted.
Judge Kidd wanted to have Pell thrown in jail immediately after the verdict, but let him stay free so he could have a double knee replacement.
Pell is the most senior Catholic clergyman to face trial over sexual offences anywhere in the world. He has been ailing in recent months
A suppression order against making the conviction public was only lifted on Tuesday after prosecutors abandoned a second case against him.
Two boys had claimed Pell molested them in a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s when he was a parish priest there.
Australian media was forced to report Pell had stepped down from his role as the Vatican’s chief financial officer due to old age.
In reality, he was sacked by Pope Francis immediately after his conviction.
Pope Francis also banned Pell from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over.
Acting Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Pope Francis was pained by Pell’s conviction and knows it has shocked many people in Australia.
But Francis also noted that Pell ‘has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself’, Gisotti said.
Acting Holy See spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Pope Francis was pained by Pell’s conviction and knows it has shocked many people in Australia
REACTION TO CARDINAL GEORGE PELL’S GUILTY VERDICT
- ‘At some point, we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.’ – surviving victim
- ‘This conviction is a reminder to survivors of abuse to feel empowered to tell their stories. Justice has prevailed and the nation is finally listening and addressing your pain.’ – lawyer Lisa Flynn, who represented child sexual assault victims
- ‘I’m utterly devastated about it … There was no one for them at the bar table today.’ – lawyer Ingrid Irwin after a second trial which involved Pell and two of her clients was dropped
- ‘Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so.’ – lawyer representing Pell, Paul Galbally
The two boys were molested in 1996 after a mass Pell conducted at St Patrick’s Cathedral (pictured) in Melbourne
- ‘While acknowledging the judgment of the jury, I join many people who have been surprised and shaken by the outcome of the second trial.’ – Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli
- ‘We pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable.’ – Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
- ‘The institution has been brought to its knees. It has lost its credibility, frankly. It is still struggling to come to terms with that.’ – Francis Sullivan, former boss of the council that co-ordinated the church’s royal commission response
- ‘Catholics today in Victoria, in Australia, vote with your feet. Have some backbone, walk out of the church house. They won’t change.’ – child sexual abuse survivor advocate, Michael
- ‘To date, within the Catholic Church, it has been anything but fair, just, humane or moral.’ – Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot Foundation for adult survivors of child trauma
- ‘This is is a momentous event, as part of the continuing drama of the Catholic catastrophe.’ – former Catholic priest turned child abuse victims advocate Professor Des Cahill
- ‘Thank you to some of the bravest men in Australia and their families for trusting me.’ – investigative journalist Louise Milligan
- ‘You’re going to burn in hell. Burn in hell, Pell.’ – a bystander as Pell left court
- ‘Cardinal Pell’s behaviours have not met the standards we expect of those we honour as role models for the young men we educate.’ – St Patrick’s College headmaster John Crowley, having removed Pell’s name from a building which had been named in his honour
Pell has always maintained his innocence and has lodged an appeal against his convictions
- ‘Like most Australians, I am deeply shocked at the crimes of which George Pell has been convicted. I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn’t.’ – Prime Minister Scott Morrison
- ‘My thoughts are with the victims – their pain is a tragedy, their bravery an inspiration. They’ve been betrayed and so have good people of faith across Victoria.’ – Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
- ‘(I’m) absolutely shocked and disgusted by the details I’ve read today and I think everybody would feel the same. There are no words to describe how horrible those incidents were.’ – NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
- ‘Finally, the good news is that now George Pell’s decades of predatory behaviour is out there for all to see.’ – Senator Derryn Hinch
- ‘It is truly wonderful to live in a country where no one is above the law, where any person can seek access to justice and to see that justice done.’ – Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek
The two 13-year-old boys were on scholarships to the prestigious St Kevin’s College in late 1996 and were caught swigging sacramental wine in the priest’s sacristy by Pell, newly installed as Archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell scolded the boys, then exposed his penis from beneath his ornate ceremonial robes, and molested the pair including forcing one to perform oral sex on him.
‘You’re in trouble,’ he told them before the assaults.
One of the boys said he was sexually assaulted again by Pell a month or so after he was raped, recalling that he was pushed against a cathedral wall.
‘He shoved me against the wall violently and squeezed my genitals,’ the court heard.
The cardinal’s barrister Robert Richter QC argued the allegations were a ‘far-fetched fantasy’, that Pell was always accompanied after mass and that his cumbersome robes would have prevented him revealing his genitals.
Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter (pictured) filed a bail application at the court of appeal for 2.30pm that day, hoping to keep him out of jail until his appeal is heard
The Court of Appeal (pictured) can grant bail at its discretion while it reviews an application to quash a conviction, which can take months
‘This is painful news’: The Vatican’s full statement on the Pell verdict
The Holy See agrees with the statement issued by the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference regarding the sentence of guilt in the first instance concerning Cardinal George Pell.
This is painful news that, as we are well aware, has shocked many people, not only in Australia. As already expressed on other occasions, we have the utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities.
Out of this respect, we await the outcome of the appeals process, recalling that Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence and has the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal.
While awaiting the definitive judgement, we unite ourselves with the Australian bishops in praying for all victims of abuse, and reaffirm our commitment to do everything possible so that the Church might be a safe home for all, especially for children and the most vulnerable.
In order to ensure the course of justice, the Holy Father has confirmed the precautionary measures which had been imposed by the local Ordinary on Cardinal George Pell when he returned to Australia.
That is, while awaiting the definitive assessment of the facts, as is the norm, Cardinal George Pell is prohibited from exercising public ministry and from having any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors.
‘Only a madman would attempt to rape boys in the priest’s sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass,’ he told the jury.
Pell’s surviving victim thanked his family for their support, saying the process of bringing Pell to justice was stressful and not over yet.
‘Like many survivors I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle. Like many survivors it has taken me years to understand the impact upon my life,’ he said.
‘At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.’
Pell’s other victim died of a heroin overdose.
FROM ALLEGATIONS TO CONVICTION: A TIMELINE OF THE CARDINAL GEORGE PELL CASE
– Pell appointed Archbishop of Melbourne by Pope John Paul II
– Pell sexually abuses two 13-year-old choirboys after a Sunday solemn mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral
– A second indecent act is committed by Pell against one of the choirboys in a corridor at the Cathedral.
– The Herald Sun reports Pell is being investigated by Victoria Police’s Sano taskforce for ‘multiple offences’ committed while he was a priest in Ballarat and Archbishop of Melbourne
– Pell says the allegations are ‘without foundation and utterly false’ and calls for an inquiry into how the police investigation became public
– Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton asks the anti-corruption watchdog to investigate the leak, but denies it came from police
Cardinal George Pell, 77, is known as the Vatican’s treasurer and had been granted a leave of absence while facing trial over child sex offences in Australia. He has surrendered his passport
– Pell gives evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s inquiry into abuse in Ballarat
– Under Vatican rules, Pell gives Pope Francis his resignation on his 75th birthday, as is customary. It is not accepted
– Victoria Police investigators hand over to the state’s Office of Public Prosecutions a brief of evidence on allegations of sexual abuse by Pell
– Officers travel to Rome to interview Pell over the abuse claims. He voluntarily participates in the interview.
– Police present their final brief of evidence to the Office of Public Prosecutions to consider charges
– Prosecutors give police the green light to charge Pell.
– Pell is charged with multiple counts of historic child sex offences
– He denies the charges and vows to clear his name
– Lawyers for Pell appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court
– Pell takes leave from his Vatican finance chief role to fight the charges.
– Pell returns to Australia
– He hires top barrister Robert Richter QC
– Supporters set up a fund to help Pell fight the charges.
– Prosecutors drop one of the charges against Pell
– A month-long committal hearing begins to determine if Pell will face trial
– Prosecutors withdraw more charges
– Mr Richter claims police conducted a ‘get Pell operation’ and accuses magistrate Belinda Wallington of bias. She refuses to disqualify herself from the case.
– Magistrate Belinda Wallington orders Pell stand trial on some charges, but throws out others
– Pell formally pleads ‘not guilty’
– Two trials are ordered, separating the 1970s and 1990s allegations
– A Victorian County Court employee is sacked for looking up information on the Pell case.
– The 1990s ‘cathedral trial’ begins in the Victorian County Court in Melbourne
– Pell pleads not guilty again to one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four of indecent acts with a child, over incidents involving two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.
– The jury is discharged, unable to reach a verdict following a week of deliberation. Some jurors weep.
– A retrial begins. The jury aren’t told of the previous hung jury.
– Pell is found guilty on all charges by an unanimous jury
– Mr Richter says Pell will appeal
– Suppression orders prevent Australian media reporting the verdict but it spreads through international media within hours.
– Hearings begin ahead of the second trial. Prosecutors drop another charge
– An appeal is filed against the cathedral trial conviction
– A County Court judge deems vital evidence inadmissible
– Prosecutors withdraw all remaining charges against Pell and drop a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s when he was a parish priest
– Pell is due to be taken into custody on Wednesday February 27 as the plea hearing begins.
– Pell is due to be sentenced by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd.
Australian Associated Press